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Comparing The Design Problem Solving Processes Of Product Design And Engineering Student Teams In The Us And Uk

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

The Best of Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.309.1 - 13.309.16



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Paper Authors


Senay Purzer

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Senay Yasar-Purzer is a Ph.D. candidate in Science Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona State University (ASU). She currently works as a graduate research associate in the Communication in Science Inquiry Project, an NSF-funded teacher professional development program. She earned her master’s degree in Science Education at ASU. She has a BS degree in Physics Education and is currently pursuing another B.S.E degree with a concentration in mechanical systems. In 2007, she received the Dean’s Excellence award in graduate research from the Mary Lou Fulton School of Education. Her creative research focuses on team learning and the role of self-efficacy on student achievement.

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Alison McKay University of Leeds

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Prof Alison McKay is Professor of Design Systems in the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds. In recent years she has led the development of a new multi-disciplinary undergraduate programme in Product Design at Leeds. Her research interests lie in the broad areas of product development, design systems and enterprise engineering. Current work is focused on the representation of service products, the evaluation of extended enterprise structures, and the application of shape computation principles in design synthesis.

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Mark Henderson Arizona State University

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Mark Henderson is professor of Engineering at Arizona State University at the Polytechnic
Campus in Mesa, AZ. He received the MS degree in biomechanical engineering and the Ph.D. in
mechanical engineering from Purdue University. Henderson is co-author of the textbook,
Computer-Integrated Design and Manufacturing. His major research includes computer-aided
design and global engineering. He directs international educational programs including the Global Engineering Design Team for undergrads and the Nomadic Design Academy summer study
abroad program with 6 other multi-national universities. Henderson is co-director of the research center Partnership for Research on Spatial Modeling (PRISM; and the undergrad transdisciplinary design studio entitled InnovationSpace (

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Chell Roberts Arizona State University

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Chell A. Roberts is an associate professor and Director of Engineering at Arizona State
University Polytechnic. He received his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
from Virginia Tech in 1991. He has a MS in Industrial Engineering and a BA in Mathematics
from the University of Utah. He is a member of the board of directors for the Society for
Computer Simulation International and has been actively involved in developing undergraduate
engineering design curriculum.

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Alan de Pennington University of Leeds

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Comparing the Design Problem Solving Processes of Product Design and Engineering Student Teams in the US and UK

Abstract The delivery of sustainable and innovative products and services in global marketplaces demands changes in the way engineers are educated. Identification of essential elements of global engineering education and development of global competencies in engineering design are key prerequisites to the development and delivery of emerging global engineering curricula. The goal of the research reported in this paper was to characterize how diverse design teams operate differently and what common methods they use despite the differences in their backgrounds. We analyzed the design problem-solving strategies and processes used by four student teams. Two of these teams consisted of senior product design students in the UK and two of them included freshman engineering students in the U.S. We used a cross case study analysis to compare senior product design and freshman engineering teams as well as mixed-gender and all-male teams. We asked all student teams to solve an engineering design problem on a fictitious street crossing issue occurring on their college campus. We video-recorded their discussions and collected the documents they produced during the protocol. A key characteristic of the product design teams was their use of drawings at every stage of the design process; in contrast the freshman engineering teams carried out more detailed information gathering activities. These differences between senior product and freshman engineering teams reflected the emphasis areas in their curriculum. All four teams frequently iterated between the different stages of the design process and project planning was a neglected area for all teams. Further research is needed to increase the number of team studies to explore the role of design drawings in supporting team communication, team information gathering and use processes, and the role of team diversity in supporting innovative design solutions.


The study of design thinking attempts to discover three things: the processes designers follow in developing a design solution, comparison of designers with various levels of experiences, and how the quality of the design solutions relates to the problem solving processes. Given that design is a human activity involving both creativity and innovation, quantifying how designers think offers real challenges. In addition, teamwork, which has a considerable importance in engineering and product design, expands the complexities of design problem solving. In our study, we used mixed methods approach to explore design problem solving processes of engineering and product design students with an attempt to understand how students approach to and solve design problems.

Our sample includes student teams with diverse educational and cultural backgrounds, different geographical locations, and diverse team compositions. We predict that students with diverse backgrounds and educational experiences would use different approaches to solve their design problem and would produce diverse solutions. We wanted to document these differences; however, we also wanted to explore the similarities among these teams, despite these variances. We believe that our findings would guide future research and be a significant contribution to the


Purzer, S., & McKay, A., & Henderson, M., & Roberts, C., & de Pennington, A. (2008, June), Comparing The Design Problem Solving Processes Of Product Design And Engineering Student Teams In The Us And Uk Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4003

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015